Patch Picks: Game Time

The start of a new school year is almost upon us. What better way to spend the waning days of summer than around a table together playing three-dimensional, conversation-promoting, educational games?

Apples to Apples

This simple but fun game needs at least three people but works better with five or more. Green cards list a quality (hot, awkward, small) and red cards list things and activities (fireworks, dancing, dinosaurs). One player is selected as judge and picks a green card, whose quality is revealed to the rest of the players. They receive five red cards from which to pick a card that best describes the quality. The judge determines which card most closely describes it. That player wins the round and acts as judge for the next. Sometimes, it takes quite a bit of rationalizing to pick the winner, which can lead to hours of silly fun.


Around since 1935, the real estate game carries some interesting trivia. It’s available in 111 countries and 43 languages, has a World Championship, and was used by the British Secret Service during WWII. Special editions include Spongebob Squarepants, Disney Pixar, Mario Brothers, and Star Wars Clone Wars, among others. I like my New York City edition, but the traditional version works just fine.

Family Dinner Box of Questions

There is a box, and it contains cards with questions on them that players distribute.  So it’s more conversation-starter than game. But the questions will definitely promote lively debates. Some of the questions: Would you rather time travel 20 years into the future or 20 years back to the past? Who in your family do you most resemble? What qualities do you look for in a friend? Where’s the coziest spot in your home? The digressions are the best part.


At casinos, of course, it goes by the name of Blackjack. But since I’m trying to encourage math facts not gambling, I prefer to call it ’21.’ In fact, it’s effective for gently reinforcing addition skills.

Word Change Game

By way of caution, this may not be the official name—my son learned it in school and taught it to me. We’ve played it almost everywhere—doctor’s offices, restaurants, airplanes, airports. And the dining room table. The first player picks a random four-letter word like ‘cane,’ for example. The next player must change only one letter, so ‘cane’ becomes ‘care,’ which the next player can change to ‘cars’ and so on ad infinitum. Considering how simple it seems, it can be quite diverting to see how many changes you can make before you run out of words. And the best part? All you need is a pen and paper—no pieces to lose, no complicated rules. 

What’s your favorite game?


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